By Tim Kavi
Lakshimi puja is a ritual celebrated during Diwali, or the festival of lights. The ritual is dedicated to showing propitiation and devotion to Lakshimi, the goddess of fortune, wealth, prosperity and the embodiment of beauty. Lakshimi is known to bring good luck to her believers and devotees, rescuing them from money troubles and other miseries. She is frequently worshiped and honored as a goddess of wealth in commercial establishments or homes. Lakshimi is also honored as the consort of Vishnu, which has endowed her with six divine qualities.
Because Laskhimi is seen as one who takes light in, she is an important figure in the Diwali festival. It is said that those looking to honor the goddess would light lanterns outside their home in hopes that they would draw the Laskhimi in to bless them. The third day of Diwali is the most important day of Lakshmi puja because the sun will enter its second course, allowing Libra to assist with the balancing the books and closing records, bringing Laskhimi additional power to bless her followers. The first days of this festival are also celebrated with drums and bells to represent the “pouring in” of the heart, expressing the thanks for the many blessings and prosperity Lakshmi has brought.
A number of elements are considered essential to the rite of celebrating Lakshmi puja. In the temples, a cloth is placed across a raised platform and an alter is made with grains, pitchers made from terracotta, gold, silver or copper, a dish of rice grains, a lotus flower drawn in turmeric and an idol of Lakshimi surrounded by coins. The idol is bathed in water and panchamrit, followed by a second bath in water infused with gold or pearls. She is then wiped clean and the water is sprinkled on the turmeric lotus to invoke the goddess. Businesses may include books related to their profession around the altar as well as these traditional elements.
Households will place a lantern or make offerings of kumkum, flowers or haldi to the goddess. Offerings of cotton beads, flowers such as marigolds, apple wood, sandal paste, perfume and sandal paste are also frequently offered. After these initial offerings are given, incense is lit to purify the altar. Then a second offering of fruits, coconut, sweets, tambul, puffed rice, coriander, cumin and batasha are given. These elements are not to be mixed with the honey or jewelry on the altar out of respect to Lord Kuber.
Prayers to Lakshmi are frequently recited during the Lakshmi puja celebration. Groups will perform aarti for the goddess, though these celebrations are often quieter than traditional celebrations as Lakshmi is not fond of loud noises. Instead, small bells are used to accompany the prayers and aarti. Unlike aarti that are performed for other gods, groups should not clasp hands when performing this ritual, nor should firecrackers be set off during or after the puja. Homes should strive to keep a sublime, peaceful and comforting atmosphere out of respect to the goddess and her celebration during Diwali.